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Briere gives Flyers key win, scores goal in SO of 4-3 victory over Islanders

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - The Philadelphia Flyers are living on the edge, earning key points with clutch goals and desperately trying to hold on in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race.

For the second straight night, the Flyers got even late in the third period. After taking a tough shootout loss in New Jersey, Philadelphia turned this comeback into a 4-3 shootout win Saturday over the New York Islanders.

"I've been practising a lot of breakaways this season, so I was ready," said Antero Niittymaki, who stopped all three shots he faced in his first shootout of the season.

Danny Briere scored the only goal in the tiebreaker for the Flyers, who rallied twice in the third period and escaped. Philadelphia tied the Devils twice in the third Friday, with Mike Knuble making it 4-4 in the final minute of regulation.

Wade Dubielewicz made a career-high 51 saves, then stopped Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the first two rounds of the shootout. Niittymaki matched him at the other end with saves against Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Richard Park.

That set up Briere for the winner on the final attempt. When the puck crossed the goal line, he celebrated with an enthusiastic fist pump.

"It was tough at the start, since we came off an emotional game last night with a lot of ups and downs, but we fought to the end," Briere said. "It wasn't my prettiest move. I kind of fanned on the puck."

The Flyers jumped back over Boston, which won earlier Saturday, into seventh place in the East. Philadelphia, with three games remaining, is tied in points with the sixth-place Rangers and is three ahead of Washington, the first team below the post-season cutoff.

"This might be our gutsiest effort of the year," coach John Stevens said.

The Flyers forged their second tie of the third period with 4:22 left in regulation on Richards' 28th goal. Nielsen, back after a 13-game absence caused by a shoulder injury, pushed the Islanders in front 3-2 at 10:19 after Joffrey Lupul tied it for Philadelphia 7 minutes earlier.

By the time the game reached overtime, the Flyers already had a season-high 49 shots. Philadelphia finished with a 54-30 edge. The Islanders played most of overtime in the Flyers end, helped by a pair of power plays, but couldn't beat Niittymaki again.

Philadelphia has won five of six, the only blemish the loss at New Jersey. The Flyers took seven of eight from the also-ran Islanders, who were officially eliminated from post-season contention with a loss at Philadelphia last Sunday.

"We played a team that has nothing to lose, and we knew they wanted to be a spoiler," Briere said.

Park and Blake Comeau staked New York to a 2-0 lead that was erased on goals by Briere and Lupul. Dubielewicz was beaten by the Flyers for the first time in his career, despite topping his previous best save total of 44 from earlier this season.

The Flyers could only claim a break-even period in the second despite recording a season-high 23 shots compared to seven for the Islanders.

"I don't think a lot of their shots were quality," Dubielewicz said. "We did a good job of keeping them on the perimeter. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us. ... They were trying to generate offence from everywhere."

The edge was 12-3 before Comeau doubled New York's lead at 7:43. It would soon be cut in half.

"We feel we can play at this level," said Nielsen, a rookie along with Comeau and Okposo. "We have to show we belong here, and that we're playing for jobs here next year, but we're young guys, and we go out and have fun, too."

During an abbreviated power play - Philadelphia's only advantage of the night - Briere connected just 1:08 after leaving the penalty box. Briere brought the puck out near the left post and fanned on his first attempt. Without losing control, Briere glided backward into the left circle and snapped a shot in, making it 2-1 with 4:36 left in the second.

New York grabbed a 1-0 lead with 5:01 left in the first on Park's second goal in three games after a 27-game drought.

Notes: Dubielewicz had been 6-0 in games that stretched past regulation, including four career shootout victories. ... Flyers LW Vinny Prospal was scratched due to the flu. ... Philadelphia's previous high this season was 20 shots in the second period against Atlanta on March 18. The Flyers had 47 overall shots, which was a season high.


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